REGULAR appraisal and a proper system for professional development will help restore the public status of teachers, Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, declared last week, writes David Henderson.
"Teaching is the only profession in the country that does not have a system of appraisal. Once you have been appraised, it's a very positive thing," Mrs Liddell said at the launch of the Scottish Qualification for Headship.
Teachers should have had their first appraisal by June, although many schools are believed to have put this on the backburner. Mrs Liddell stated: "Some, not as many as I would wish, have been assessed through the process of staff development and appraisal or review.
"And, of course, teachers are used to assessing pupils."
She underlined that a new framework of competences, standards and linked qualifications beyond initial training should begin with aspiring heads. However, that brief has been widened to include all staff and pound;30 million has been allocated for teacher education and development.
"Effective leadership, higher defined standards, regular performance appraisal and a proper system for professional development will not only do much to raise standards but will show that public confidence in the teaching profession is well placed," Mrs Liddell said.
Assessment of practice was "something with which individual teachers are comfortable" and it should be used as a means of developing their careers.
The new qualification for aspiring heads, which is undergoing a further year of piloting, was "not a barrier to advancement but a qualification which supports teachers in their preparation for leadership", Mrs Liddell said.
Jim Dignan, the HMI who oversees the heads' qualification, which ministers want to become mandatory, said 200 would take the courses in the coming year, the annual turnover of heads in Scotland. The figure would be at least 300 when the scheme was up and running. Courses could take up to three years to complete.
Mr Dignan said applicants would need a minimum of five years' experience, to have shown commitment to the corporate life of the school and their own professional development, and to have undertaken senior management functions. Senior staff who have fulfilled the criteria for various units on management and leadership will be able to follow an "accelerated route".
Mr Dignan said half the programme was work-based in schools. Heads, as supervisors, would have to devise appropriate tasks for students.
Alison Noble, acting headteacher at Bruntsfield primary in Edinburgh, one of six pilot authorities taking part this session, said existing work and family commitments did not make it easy to study in the evening. But she added: "I feel we are being prepared for something of great benefit to Scottish education."